By Kirra Grimes

‘PARALYSIS by analysis’ is how frustrated Inverloch residents have described authorities’ approach to the increasing threat of coastal erosion and inundation, following the revelation that long-term solutions are still more than a year away.

Residents of Surf Parade and the nearby Lohr Avenue gathered at Surf Beach recently to demand urgent action to address the rapid deterioration of sand dunes and vegetation along the foreshore, between the Surf Life Saving Club and Bunurong Road corner, having recently observed the flattening of a large section of dune near the Wreck Creek bridge in the space of less than a month.

Without that dune to protect them, residents estimate 40 homes in the vicinity are at risk of flooding in the next storm surge.

The nearby sewerage pumping station could also be impacted, potentially leaving all of Inverloch without a vital piece of infrastructure, they warned.

While they don’t dispute that a comprehensive study into long-term solutions is needed, residents want acknowledgment from authorities that theirs is an “emergency” situation, unable to wait until the completion of the state government’s Local Coastal Hazard Assessment (LCHA), in August next year, and whatever might emerge from it.

“They’re saying it could take a year or more to do the report – by the time they secure the funding to take action, and start building something, we could be looking at four to five years,” said Mick Kearney, who moved to Surf Parade 10 years ago when the track to the beach was, he says, at least 20 metres longer than it is now.

“At the rate the foreshore’s disappearing, we don’t have that long. We’ll be lucky to get through this winter,” he said.

In the short-term, residents are asking for reassurance that there is a containment or “rapid response” plan in place for Surf Parade, should flooding occur.

Surf Parade residents Phil Mattinson and Mick Kearney and Lohr Avenue residents Margaret Barnard and Pru Sanderson want to know what authorities plan to do about erosion near Wreck Creek, which they say is progressing at an “alarming” rate and endangering nearby homes.

Ideally, they’d like things not to get to that point, and have suggested interventions such as additional wet sand fencing to slow the erosion process down while the longer term solutions, such as a rock wall, are still being worked on.

“There’s this emergency situation, and then there’s the [LCHA] report; they’re two separate things,” said Lohr Avenue resident of 50 years, Margaret Barnard.

“At the moment, the focus seems to be more about reports and investigations and not much action – that’s what we’re panicking about.”

With “grave concerns” about the increasing threat, and several reports of difficulties in getting straight answers from local and state government authorities, most of all, they don’t want to be “fobbed off” anymore.

“There’s been a whole lot of attention on the Surf Life Saving Club and the Bunurong Road corner and looking after those two bits, but they’ve been so slow to get things happening, the rest of the foreshore has just been left to get worse and worse, like they’re waiting until it’s all destroyed,” Lohr Avenue resident Pru Sanderson said.

“The sound of sea has stopped being a nice sound – it’s scary now. And that’s a sad thing to experience,” she said.

Authorities’ response

In response to residents’ concerns, Bass Coast Mayor Cr Brett Tessari said council would “continue to advocate to the state and federal governments, stressing the urgency of the situation at every opportunity [they] get”.

Mayor Tessari did not comment on whether there was an emergency plan in place for Surf Parade specifically, but pointed out that there is a shire-wide plan, known as the Municipal Emergency Management Plan, which details how council works together with emergency services agencies (CFA, SES, Victoria Police, Ambulance, etc), land managers and government departments such as the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to respond to emergencies that could occur in Bass Coast.

State Member for Bass Jordan Crugnale referred our request for comment to DELWP, who provided the following statement:

“The Local Coastal Hazard Assessment, which will inform the longer term decision making on how to best manage this section of the coastline, is about to go out to tender.

“In the interim, if there are any significant events that cause threats to any assets along this section of coastline, whether impacting public or private land, the relevant responsible agencies will work together to address the issue, in a similar manner to recent issues that arose on Bunurong Road.”